Ura-Harajuku Part I

Ahhh, autumn is finally here! I’m almost done with the Great 2008 Cross-Japan Autumn Road trip series of posts and plan to wrap that up in the next couple of weeks. Good thing too, because it’s almost time for the (semi) Great 2009 Cross Japan Autumn Road Trip later this (eeeps!) month. Which reminds me that I have to get planning on that – we’ve precious few days this year relative to last year, and are planning to tear across half the length of Japan (approximately 1030 kilometers) to reach Yamaguchi and Kita-Kyushu, located on the very Western end/Northern end of Honshu and Kyushu, respectively. Then we’ve got to make it back. Oh and yeah, we’ve only 4.5 days to do it all in. Should be fun :)

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But for now, something a little bit different. There are a lot of fun places to see in Tokyo (one of the reasons I like it so much) – some more familiar to Westerners than others. One of the neighborhoods that got a lot of attention back in the states a few years back (thanks to Gwen Steffani, I suppose) is Harajuku. I happen to like Harajuku quite a bit as it packs a lot of interesting stuff, but sometimes people only scratch the surface – i.e. the two main drags of Ometesando-dori and Takeshita-dori – of what it has to offer. Those places are quite nice in and of themselves and you could do worse than to spend some time (and money) walking down them. However, in my opinion, it’s the back streets of Harajuku – known as “Uraharajuku” (or “Urahara” for short) that are far more interesting than the more commonly visited Takeshita and Omotesando streets. In addition to countless hip clothing stores (a veritable paradise for a tragic fashion victim such as myself and a prime reason why I’m perpetually broke), this area also features some pretty great cafes, and is inhabited by some of the trendiest cats around, if you’re into people watching.

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But beyond all of this, the thing I find most attractive about this part of Harajuku is its distinct atmosphere, which really ought be experienced rather than described. The atmosphere is a result of many different factors, but the one that interests me the most is the architecture – stark pale white concretes mixed with frosted glass, fixtures and railings made of brushed aluminum, polished woods and textured fabrics peeking out here and there – all coming together in narrow winding streets, gently sloping hills and deep valleys following small waterways surrounded by tall buildings on both sides. It’s a wonderful place to spend a few hours – or a few days – and you will never want for things to see, do or eat.

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I often visit Harajuku these days, and a couple of weeks ago I went with a couple of friends and brought my camera along to take a few pictures. They don’t really do the place justice, so if you ever find yourself in the area, try taking a step into the winding maze of streets just beyond the main avenues. I bet you’ll love it.

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If you want more information about this part of town, you can check out the wikipedia entry (only in Japanese, I’m afraid). Otherwise, there are some more shots after the jump below.

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Well, that’s it for now. There’s actually a bunch more pictures from this set which I might post in a couple of weeks. So stay tuned!

Now listening to: “Armin van Buuren – A State of Trance #100″

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